Abstract

In this special edition, Mr. Strong offers us a translation of a very important essay by author/researcher Gonzalo Celorio, on Alejo Carpentier. The essay was published to celebrate the 100th birthday of Carpentier, and was published in La Revista de la Universidad. This essay served as the prologue of a recent edition Carpentier's musical novel Concierto barroco. (Mexico City: Lectorum, 2003. pp. 9-31. )

Resumen

En este número especial, el señor Strong nos ofrece una traducción de un importantísimo ensayo por el  autor/investigador Gonzalo Celorio sobre Alejo Carpentier. El ensayo fue escrito para conmemorar el centenario del nacimiento de Carpentier, y fue publicado en La Revista de la Universidad. Sirve de prólogo a una edición reciente de la novela musical de Carpentier, Concierto barroco. (Mexico City: Lectorum, 2003. pp. 9-31. )

            According to widespread critical opinion, Alejo Carpentier’s chief contributions to the development of the twentieth-century Latin American novel are twofold.  First, there is his idea of the American marvelous real, proposed in the prologue to his novel El reino de este mundo (The Kingdom of This World, 1949) and developed in the final essay of his 1964 collection, Tientos y diferencias [Theme and variations]. Second, there is his concept of the Baroque as paradigmatic of our American culture, which he presented in several of his texts, particularly in “Problemática de la actual novela latinoamericana” (“Questions Concerning the Contemporary Latin American Novel”), the essay that opens Tientos y diferencias.  These concepts are central to his theoretical reflections on our culture, and they drive his narrative practice.  Indeed, to a large extent they define his contribution to contemporary Latin America fiction.

            In 1927, Carpentier wrote his first novel and gave it the title ¡Ecue-Yamba-O!, a Lucumí exclamation that means “Praise be to God!”  The novel was composed in just nine days in a Havana prison where Carpentier was serving a seven-month sentence for signing the manifesto of the Grupo Minorista, to which he belonged, against Gerardo Machado’s dictatorship.  If the novel was meant to be modern—above all in its futurist images—the result was, as the author himself realized, “an attempt that failed because of its abuse of metaphors, mechanical similes […] and the false idea of nationalism held by my generation” (García-Carranza 17). In fact, this debut novel did not diverge significantly from the realism typical of the time, and despite its clear intention to denounce the neocolonial exploitation of the mines, petroleum trusts, and banana companies of our continent, it rarely plumbed the depths of social problems and often got stuck in the merely vernacular, if not the folkloric or picturesque.  Upon his release from prison in 1928, Carpentier settled in Paris and would not live in Cuba again until 1939, when he was forced to return by the outbreak of World War II.  In the French capital, he was in close communication with the European avant-garde that had blossomed after World War I.  He struck up friendships with the poets and painters of the Surrealist movement—Louis Aragon, Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard, Georges Sadoul, Benjamin Péret, de Chirico, Tanguy, Picasso, a group whom he considered “the most extraordinary generation that had arisen in France since the Romantics.” (García-Carranza 15)  He was asked by André Breton to collaborate on Révolution surréaliste, the journal of the movement that Breton headed.

            Inspired by Freudian theories of the interpretation of dreams and by Surrealism and its manifestos, Carpentier set out to incorporate into his artistic creation the oneiric world (what Breton called “the dark powers of the soul”) through processes such as automatic writing, which aimed to engage the unconscious and the non-rational.  Held in thrall by this movement, which recognized a larger reality than that allowed by the contemporary realism or  the naturalism of the nineteenth century, Carpentier—who never stopped thinking about America despite his European setting—began to rewrite his 1927 ¡Ecue-Yamba-O! during the long months of 1933.  The result never satisfied him, and he ultimately abjured the work.

            In 1943, Carpentier took a trip to Haiti that would prove decisive in the formation of his thinking about Latin American literature and culture.  He traveled the red roads of the central mesa and visited the ruins of Sans-Souci and the Citadel La Ferrière, built on the orders of Henri Christophe, the black pastry chef turned illustrious despot, and Cap-Haïtien and the palace once occupied by Pauline Bonaparte.  He discovered to his amazement that in this Antillean country, the marvelous exists as part of daily life.  The collective faith of its inhabitants in their leader Mackandal liberated them, even during the Napoleonic occupation; their faith proceeded from timeless myths and has never lost its efficacy.  Carpentier did not hesitate to call this reality “marvelous,” nor did he hesitate to extend it to all of Latin America, contrasting it to the Surrealist practices that once enchanted him.  Of the European Surrealists, he wrote:

The problem here is that many of them disguise themselves cheaply as magicians, forgetting that the marvelous begins to be unmistakably marvelous when it arises from an unexpected alteration of reality (the miracle), from a privileged revelation of reality, an unaccustomed insight that is singularly favored by the unexpected richness of reality or an amplification of the scale and categories of reality, perceived with particular intensity by virtue of an exaltation of the spirit that leads it to a kind of extreme state [estado límite].  To begin with, the phenomenon of the marvelous presupposes faith.  Those who do not believe in saints cannot cure themselves with the miracles of saints … (Magical Realism, 85-6).

This vital experience gave birth to Carpentier’s 1949 novel, The Kingdom of this World, the prologue of which outlines what would become the author’s most persistent poetics: the American marvelous real.  The idea presented in that prologue, which Carpentier would develop through the course of the novel, is that in America--our America, we are to understand—the marvelous forms a part of daily life because citizens believe in miracles, whereas in Europe, rational discourse has taken the place of myths and the marvelous is manufactured by conjurers’ tricks.

            Of course, this idea has its roots in what has been called the “encounter” of European and indigenous cultures, a familiar duality from Columbus to Hegel, from Amerigo Vespucci and Joseph de Acosta to Bartolomé de las Casas and Rousseau, all of whom attributed the values of innocence, virginity and abundance (land of eternal spring, home of the noble savage, generous cornucopia) to the New World, and decadence and decrepitude to the Old World.

            This duality appears repeatedly in Carpentier’s essays and animates the writing of the six novels that followed The Kingdom of this World.  They are Los pasos perdidos (The Lost Steps, 1953), El siglo de las luces (translated as Explosion in a Cathedral, 1962), El recurso del método (Reasons of State, 1974), Concierto barroco (translated into English with the same title, 1974), La consagración de la primavera (Rite of Spring, as yet untranslated, 1978), and El arpa y la sombra (The Harp and the Shadow, 1979).  In each, Carpentier presents an encounter between a mythic, virginal America and a weary, overly rationalist Europe, with the point of contrast being the different ways in which the cultures conceive of the marvelous.  According to Carpentier, the marvelous in America arises as an objective aspect of reality and depends upon a collective faith in miracles, whereas in Europe it results from the writer’s personal invention and has, therefore, a fantastic and necessarily subjective character.

            In the prologue to Kingdom, as we see in the above passage, Carpentier writes that the marvelous is derived from an unexpected alteration of reality, which is perceived with an exalted spirit by the miracle-believer.  This would seem to call into question its supposed objectivity, and whether the condition that Carpentier attributes to America is as objective as he maintains. To the contrary, mightn’t it be that this condition occurs when the gaze of an outsider (in this case a European) falls on our reality and, seeing that it doesn’t fit into the paradigms of the Old World, pronounces it marvelous, as has happened since the time of Columbus.  The body of Carpentier’s work seems to suggest the latter: if the author had truly believed in the marvelous as an integral part of American reality and if he had observed our reality from an indigenous perspective, he would not have called it marvelous.  Instead he would have accepted it as real, rather than theorizing it as the “marvelous real.”

            Carpentier’s second contribution to Latin American letters is to theorize the Baroque as the defining art of our culture.  In his essay, “Questions Concerning the Contemporary Latin American Novel,” from Tientos y diferencias, he says categorically:  “Our art has always been Baroque, from our splendid pre-Columbian sculpture and our códices to our best contemporary novels, passing through our continent’s colonial cathedrals and monasteries” (“Problemática” 42-3). In the same essay he explains that Latin American writers, unlike their European counterparts, had to name a reality that still had not passed through the filter of language, and in the process of accomplishing that Adamic task—giving names to things—their prose necessarily became Baroque:

We Latin American writers, too, have to name everything, everything that defines us, surrounds us, encircles us, everything that operates on the energy of its context, so that we may place it in a universal realm.  Gone is the age of novels with additional glossaries to define curiaraspolleras,arepas or chachzas. Gone is the age of novels with footnotes to explain that the tree with that name is covered with scarlet flowers in the month of May or August. Our ceiba, our trees (covered or not with flowers) will become universal through the operation of words that belong to a universal vocabulary. The German Romantics were very clever in informing a Latin American what a snow-covered pine tree was, even though he had never seen a pine or any notion of the snow that fell upon it. (“Problematica” 42)

Carpentier came to consider even the natural contours of America to be Baroque.  In the same essay, he refers to the “telluric Baroque” and the “physical love [that] becomes Baroque in the crisp obscenity of the Peruvian guaco. (43) and in “La cuidad de las columnas” [“The City of Columns”], his essay on Havana’s architecture, he writes of “mulatas, Baroque both in spirit and figure” (66).

            As we can see in the diversity of these references, Carpentier uses the term “Baroque” rather loosely—sometimes figuratively, metaphorically.  This is because he considers only the formal characteristics of the Baroque style—its exuberance, its dramatic tension, or sensuality—and omits the historical context and ideological content that guided the Baroque and explains it.  This is not the place to go into detail about the New World Baroque, imposed by Spain as an art of Counter-Reformation in order to introduce indigenous peoples to Spanish cultural values and to preserve Catholic orthodoxy among the criollos.  Here, thanks precisely to the contributions of indigenous cultures, to mestizaje andcriollismo, the Baroque took on a new dimension and its own personality: it became, as Jose Lezama Lima writes, an art of counterconquest, the starting point of our cultural emancipation.  Suffice it to say that the Baroque aesthetic of the seventeenth century—which lasted throughout the eighteenth century until it finally mingled with Neoclassicism—has been reclaimed in the Latin American literature of the second half of the twentieth century.  In his essay “El barroco y el neobarroco [“The Baroque and the Neobaroque”], Severo Sarduy points to a number of Neobaroque writers, particularly Cubans:  Lezama Lima, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Reinaldo Arenas, Sarduy and, of course, Alejo Carpentier.

            Without a doubt, the novel that best represents the Carpentier’s Neobaroque in its themes and style, beginning with its title, is Concierto barrocoConcierto barroco is a novel of Carpentier’s maturity, published in 1974 (as was El recurso del método), the year he turned seventy.  Without abandoning the marvelous real that sustained the work of his youth, he intensifies his Baroque strategies and styles:  parody, artifice, hyperbole, proliferating elements.  He departs from the historical chronology that characterizes his earlier works and acquires an uncharacteristic sense of humor.  These changes will also guide the writing of his final work, El arpa y la sombra [The Harp and the Shadow, 1979], which follows Concierto barroco, though their writing was interrupted (almost parenthetically, we might say) by La consagracion de la primavera (1978), a novel of ideas that is an intellectual autobiography and also political testament that exalts the gains of the Cuban revolution.  To the contrary, Concierto barroco reflects Carpentier’s passion for music, a second vocation that underlies all of his work and is displayed with singular vehemence in Los pasos perdidos [The Lost Steps, 1953].

            The Lost Steps is narrated in the first person by a musicologist in whom we might glimpse the character of Carpentier himself.  The narrator/protagonist enters the jungle of the upper Orinoco and, advancing spatially, he goes back in time in ways similar to the temporal regression in his story “Viaje a la semilla” (“Journey Back to the Source,” 1944).  Finally he reaches the very moment of music’s birth, surging like a psalm before the imminence of death.  The passage is one of the most beautiful in Carpentier’s oeuvre, and possibly in the literature of our continent:

And in the vast jungle filling with night terrors, there arose the Word.  A word that was more than word.  A word that imitated the voice of the speaker, and of that attributed to the spirit in possession of the corpse.  One came from the throat of the shaman; the other from his belly.  One was deep and confused like the bubbling of underground lava; the other, medium in pitch, was harsh and wrathful.  They alternated.  They answered each other.  The one upbraided when the other groaned; the belly voice turned sarcastic when the throat voice seemed to plead.  Sounds like guttural portamenti were heard, ending in howls; syllables repeated over and over, coming to create a kind of rhythm; there were trills suddenly interrupted by four notes that were the embryo of a melody.  But then came the vibration of the tongue between the lips, the indrawn snoring, the panting contrapuntal to the rattle of the maraca.  This was something far beyond language, and yet still far from song.  Something that had not yet discovered vocalization, but was more than word.

            As it went on, this outcry over a corpse surrounded by silent dogs became horrible, terrifying.  The shaman now stood facing the body, shouting, thumping his heels on the ground in the paroxysm of afury of imprecation which held the basic elements of all tragedy—the earliest attempt to combat the forces of annihilation which frustrate man’s designs.  I tried to remain outside, to establish distances.  And yet I could not resist the horrid fascination this ceremony held for me.  

            Before the stubbornness of Death, which refused to release its prey, the Word suddenly grew faint and disheartened.  In the mouth of the shaman, the spell-working orifice, the Threne—for that was what it was—gasped and died away convulsively, blinding me with the realization that I had just witnessed the Birth of Music. (184-5)

            Carpentier’s passion for music dates from childhood.  His biographer, Araceli García-Carranza, tells us that he was playing preludes by Chopin at the age of seven.  He inherited his love for music from his grandfather, an excellent pianist and student of César Franck; his father, a French architect who settled in Havana, was a talented cellist; and his mother played the piano (García-Carranza 11-12).  In his early work as a journalist, Carpentier reviewed concerts and musical shows, and he continued to do so throughout his life.  In fact, from 1945 to 1959, while living in Caracas, Carpentier wrote a column called “Letra y solfa” [Lyrics and sol-fa] in the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional;  all told, he published more than four thousand articles over literature, music, and “universal art.” 

            In fact, Carpentier was an extraordinary promoter of music in each of the cities where he lived—Paris, Caracas, Havana; he directed radio programs and organized recording studies, even putting together important activities like the first Festival de Música Latinoamericana in Caracas.  He taught music history in the Hubert de Blanck National Conservatory in Havana and was an indefatigable student of Cuban musical form; his research is this area led to the publication of his study, La música en Cuba [Music in Cuba] in  1946. In 1970 he was designated a member of the Association of Composers and Writers and France.  What’s more, he wrote numerous librettos (burlesque tragedies, choreographic autosoperas bufas, cantatas) for such noteworthy musicians as Marius François Gaillard, Amadeo Roldán, Alejandro García Caturla, Edgar Varèse, and Darius Milhaud.  The most notable of these collaborations were Yamba-Ó (1928), La rebambaramba(1928), Poèmes des Antilles (Antillean Poems, 1929), Canción de la niña enferma de fiebre (Song of the Girl Sick with Fever, 1930), and Invocaciones (Invocations, 1938).

            Concierto Barroco tells the story of the production of an opera composed by Antonio Vivaldi that premiered in Venice’s Sant’Angelo Theater in the autumn of 1733 and narrates the fall of Moctezuma at the hands of Spanish forces led by Hernán Cortés.  The theme could not be more suited to Carpentier’s pen: it involves a Baroque opera that involves the collision of two histories, two cultures, two worlds—America and Europe—the type of collision, as we have seen, from which springs Carpentier’s “marvelous real”.

            Carpentier reflects seventeenth-century aesthetics by taking a pre-existing artistic work—in this case the opera Motezuma—as a basis upon which to elaborate his own text.   This strategy is very much in the spirit of the Baroque, which is characterized perhaps most clearly by artifice.  This is art about art, one work referring to a previous one, a process that inevitably leads to the articulation of parodic discourse.  Appropriately, Severo Sarduy listed parody as thepreeminent technique of contemporary Neobaroque narrative: intertextuality and intratextuality, and through them the juxtaposition—sometimes explicit, sometimes implicit—of the new text with its precursors (Sarduy 177-79).   While it is indeed true that parody tends to mock the original text, it is also true that, without losing its burlesque tone, parody can elevate it, rescue it, and even pay homage to it, given the critical dimension inherent in all parody.

            That Carpentier takes an operatic referent is in itself an act of parody, and doubly so because the opera is a parody of Mexico’s conquest as recorded by Antonio Solis, the chronicler invoked by Vivaldi, composer of the music and director of the orchestra.  And Alvise Giusti, author of the libretto, subverted historical reality to the point of absurdity in order to make it more theatrical, a subversion that Vivaldi accepted enthusiastically.  In the novel, Carpentier’s character says that “opera is none of the business of historians,” and argues that any replica that approaches verisimilitude is inadmissible.  “Stop giving me that history crap.  Poetic illusion is what counts in theater,” he says to the novel’s Mexican protagonist, who has become indignant with the opera’s errors (116-17).  In the opera, Moctezuma and his wife, the Empress Mitrena—who sometimes plays the part of la Malinche—have a daughter named Teutile, who, according to the chroniclers, was a (male) general of Moctezuma’s army.  Cortés, for his part, has a younger brother, Ramiro, who accompanies him on his conquest.  As if that were not enough, after Moctezuma’s defeat, Mitrena pleads her husband’s case before the Spaniards and agrees that life before their arrival was lived in the darkness of idolatry.  But the story does not stop there: Teutile, who is immolated on the altar of the ancient gods in fulfillment of her conquered father’s wishes, is rescued by Cortés, who pardons his enemies and—as a sign of goodwill—presides over the wedding of the maiden and his brother Ramiro.  At the close, Moctezuma swears eternal fealty to the king of Spain.

            History has been so distorted in the interest of spectacle that the opera is not only a testimony to the artifice of the baroque but also an emblematic manifestation of the marvelous real.  The Mexican, having attended the dress rehearsal of Motezuma, is not able to convince Vivaldi of the gravity of his errors because the illustrious composer considers them irrelevant: “In America, everything is fantastical: stories of El Dorados and Potosís, fabulous cities, talking sponges, sheep with red fleece, Amazons with only one breast, big-eared Incas that eat Jesuits…” (117)

            Indeed, in the confrontation that the novel constructs, which reaches delirious proportions in the opera Motezuma, America maintains and even exceeds the fabulous nature that the Europeans have attributed it, while Europe—in the disillusioned eyes of the Mexican and Filomeno, his servant and companion—searches to create with artifice the “poetic illusion” that Vivaldi describes, even at the cost of historical veracity.  In very simple words, the Mexican explains to Filomeno the essence of the poetics of the marvelous real: “Our world seems like a fable to people over here because they’ve lost their sense of the fabulous.  They call everything fabulous that is remote, irrational, that belongs to yesterday” (123).  Note that in this explanation, the author, perhaps inadvertently, speaks through the Mexican, placing the provenance of the “fabulous” (an adjective certainly closely related to “marvelous”) not in the intrinsic reality of our continent, as he maintains in his theory, but in the distance of Europe from America—a view that certainly relates to Carpentier’s own perspective.  The view of the novel’s narrator does not differ much from what the Mexican accuses the Europeans of doing, because throughout the novel America is defined by its fabulous nature.  An obvious example is the swarm of mythical ancestors that fills the genealogy of Filomeno, “great-grandson of one Salvador, a black who a century before had been the hero of a deed so celebrated that a poet of the country, Silvestre de Balboa, sang of him in a long, well-rhymed ode entitled Paragon of Patience…” (49). But perhaps its most fabulous depiction appears in the unbelievable richness attributed to America even before it received a continental identity, from the time when imaginative Europeans inscribed on the unexplored west what Edmundo O’Gorman has called the most exaggerated fantasy: the fabulous weath that doomed so many conquistadores in their search for Potosí or El Dorado.  In faithful accord with this secular myth, Carpentier’s novel opens with a detailed description that could have come directly from the European imagination: the silver objects that the Mexican is zealously storing in boxes and crates in preparation for his journey to Europe.  The luxury and artifice of his housewares and utensils reinforces the opulence of New Spain’s capital, and suggests that it might deserve the mythical nickname El Plateado:

Of silver the slender knives, the delicate forks; of silver the salvers with silver trees chased in the silver of the hollows for collecting the gravy of roasts; of silver the triple-tiered fruit trays of three round dishes crowned by silver pomegranates; of silver the wine flagons hammered by craftsman in silver; of silver the fish platters, a porgy of silver lying plumply on a seaweed lattice; of silver the saltcellars, of silver the nutcrackers, of silver the goblets, of silver the teaspoons engraved with initials… All these were being borne gradually, without haste—carefully, so that silver should not bump against silver—toward the glum, waiting penumbras of wooden cases, of slatted crates, of chests with stout locks, overseen by the master in his dressing gown, who made silver ring from time to time when he urinated with stately stream, copious and percussive, well aimed into a silver chamber pot, the bottom decorated with a roguish silver eye soon blinded by the foam which, reflecting the silver so intensely, ultimately seemed silvered itself... (33)

It would be fitting to make a parenthetical comment on this passage, which so exemplifies the Baroque aesthetic: the description amuses itself with the richness, the brilliance, the magnificence of the silver objects before turning to the topic of waste, which is, in Sarduy’s opinion, a constant in baroque art—art of excess, of the gratuitous, even the excremental.  Among the housewares that the Mexican will take with him on his voyage is a silver chamberpot, symbolically uniting luxury and excrement.  Gracián, the great formulator of the Baroque, proposes in hisAgudeza y arte de ingenio [Wit and the Art of Genius,1648] that “to unite with the force of discourse two contradictory extremes—this is the height of subtlety” (105).  At the bottom of the chamberpot, an omnipresent eye watches with scatological malice the urine stream of the master, which the narrator describes with three adjectives—accurate, abundant, and percussive—the equal, at least in style, to the richness so splendidly displayed in the novel’s first page.

            The idea of America as a fabulous entity is the Mexican’s comparison of the Spanish cities he visits to his home, the capital of New Spain.  In these comparisons, the American city is always more splendid, richer, livelier.  The Mexican, who has elevated in his imagination the Madrid of his ancestors, is bitterly disappointed by the capital of the kingdom:

[…]The master had pictured Madrid otherwise.  To him, raised amidst the opulence of Mexican silver and red lava stone, the city appeared drab, gloomy, and mean.  Except for the main square, all was narrow, dirty, and squalid when one considered how broad and richly ornamented the streets at home were, with their tiled façades, balconies aloft on the wings of cherubs between cornucopias pouring forth fruits carved out of stone, and signboards the very models of fine painting whose lettering entwined with vine leaves and ivy proclaimed the attractions of jewelry shops. (59)

            We can take as a final example the gastronomic contrast that master and servant note as they sit at a table in Madrid and recall with yearning the kitchens of their respective homelands, Mexico and Cuba:

As for the cuisine, the less said the better.  The sight of the meatballs they were served and the monotonous hakes called up remembrance in the Mexican of the subtlety of red snapper and the pomp of turkey swathed in dark-hued sauces rich with the aroma of chocolate and the fires of a thousand spices; the quotidian cabbage, insipid beans, chick-peas, and broccoli moved the black to sing the praises of the full-throated, tender avocado, of malanga tubers which, sprinkled with vinegar, parsley, and garlic, appeared on the tables of his country in the company of crabs, the tawny meat of whose claws was more substantial than the beefsteaks of this land. (60)

            Carpentier’s work, as we have said, counterposes American vitality, richness, and energy to European decadence on the other, and Concierto barroco is no exception.  But with this novel, in contrast to Carpentier’s previous works, the emphasis is not the dichotomy.  Instead, Carpentier focuses on the confluence of American and European elements, without which there would be no concert, in the sense of union that goes beyond the word’s strictly musical definition.  The chapter of the Ospedale della Pietà, without a doubt one of the most vigorous and comic passage in Carpentier’s oeuvre, relates with incomparable grace the unlikely and indeed marvelous improvisation of an absolutely improbable concert directed by Vivaldi with the participation—would you believe it!—of Domenico Scarlatti on the harpsichord, Handel adding continuo, and the girls of that Venetian orphanage accompanying, each playing an instrument that is part of her name:  Pierina del violina, Cattarina del corneto, Bettina della viola, Marggherita del arpa doppia…  To this musical torrent already moving towards a crescendo, suddenly the black servant Filomeno inserts himself armed with “a battery of copper kettles of all sizes that he began to beat upon with spoons, skimmers, rolling pins, stirrers, feather-duster handles, and pokers with such prodigies of rhythm, syncopation, and complex patterns that he was given a thirty-two-bar chorus all to himself” (80). The conjunction alludes not only to past cultural syncretisms (commonly in Carpentier’s work) but also points toward the future.  The Mexican, explaining to Filomeno that the Europeans “call fabulous what is remote, irrational, and situated in the past,” adds sententiously, “They don’t understand that the fabulous is in the future.”  What’s more, he says in a conclusive tone, “All the future is fabulous” (123).  Thinking along the same lines as his protagonist, the author jumps the tracks of historical chronology.  In the peaceful Venetian cemetery where the musicians, the Mexican, and Filomeno reunite to recuperate from the excesses of carnival, they encounter the grave of Igor Stravinsky—a true herald of the future at the beginning of the eighteenth century’s third decade.  And behind him, Louis Armstrong—paragon of liberty, creation, and the free black man—appears as the guide for Filomeno, who abandons his condition of servitude and sets off to wherever his fervent trumpet may lead him.

            Concierto barroco is a rich, inventive, liberating novel.  From the moment that the Mexican, watching the rehearsal of Moctezuma, identifies with the conquered rather than the conquerors, cultural emancipation is announced and the road toward liberty is opened.  It is the same road that the author himself traveled when he created his novel and the rest of his works of fiction.


Works Cited

I use Michael Schuessler’s forthcoming translations of “Problemática de la actual novela latinoamericana” and “Ciudad de las columnas.”  Other translations of Carpentier’s works are from those already published and listed below.  The translation of Celorio’s citation of Gracián’s Agudeza y arte de ingenio is my own.

Carpentier, Alejo.  “Problemática de la actual novela latinoamericana.” Tientos y diferencias (1964).  Obras completas, Vol. 13. Mexico City:  Siglo XXI, 1990. Pp. 11-44.  [“Questions Concerning the Contemporary Latin American Novel.”  Trans. Michael Schuessler.  In Baroque New Worlds:  Representation, Transculturation, Counterconquest.  Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Monika Kaup.  Durham, NC:  Duke UP, forthcoming 2010.]

____. “Cuidad de las columnas.”  In Tientos y diferencias (1964). Obras completas, Vol. 13, Ensayos. Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1990. Pp. 61-73.  [“The City of Columns.”  Trans. Michael Schuessler.  In Baroque New Worlds:  Representation, Transculturation, Counterconquest.  Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Monika Kaup.  Durham, NC:  Duke UP, forthcoming, 2010.]

___. “De lo real maravilloso americano.” In Tientos y diferencias (1964).  Obras completas, Vol. 13. Mexico City:  Siglo XXI, 1990.  Pp. 100-17;  [“On the Marvelous Real in America.” Trans. Tanya Huntington and Lois Parkinson Zamora.  In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community.  Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris.  Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1995. Pp. 85-86.]

___.  Concierto barroco. (1974).  Obras completas.  Vol. 4.  Mexico City:  Siglo XXI, 1984.  Pp. 145-213. [Concierto Barroco. Trans. Asa Zatz, Tulsa, OK: U of Tulsa P, 1988.]

___.  La música en Cuba (1946). Obras completas, Vol. 12. Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1987. Pp. 205-486. [Music in Cuba. Trans. Alan West-Durán.  Minneapolis:  U of Minnesota P, 2001.]

___.  Los pasos perdidos. (1953). Obras completas, Vol. 2. Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1983. Pp. 121-416. [The Lost Steps. Trans. Harriet de Onís.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1959.]

___. El siglo de las luces (1962).  Obras completas. Vol 5.  Mexico City:  Siglo XXI, 1984.  [Explosion in a Cathedral.  Trans. John Sturrock. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1963.]

___. El recurso del método (1974). Obras completas, Vol. 6. Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1984. [Reasons of State.  Trans. Francis Partridge.  London:  Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative, 1977.]

___. El arpa y la sombra (1978). Obras completas, Vol. 4. Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1984. Pp. 215-378. [The Harp and the Shadow. Trans. Thomas Christensen and Carol Christensen.  San Francisco:  Mercury House, 1990.]

Celorio, Gonzalo. “Alejo Carpentier: Letra y solfa del barroco.” La revista de la universidad de México. No. 10 (2004): 71-9. 

___. “Del barroco al neobarroco.” Ensayo de contraconquista. Mexico City: Tusquets, 2001. 73-105

García-Carranza, Areceli. Bibibliografía de Alejo Carpentier. Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1984.

Gracián y Morales, Baltasar. Agudeza y arte de ingenio. Vol. 1. Ed. Evaristo Correa Calderón. Madrid: Clásicos Castalia, 1969.

Lezama Lima, José. "Curiosidad barroca." In La expresión americana (1957). Ed. Irlemar Chiampi.  Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1993. Pp. 79-106.  [“Baroque Curiosity.” Trans. María Pérez and Anke Birkenmaier. In Baroque New Worlds:  Representation, Transculturation, Counterconquest.  Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Monika Kaup.  Durham, NC:  Duke University Press, forthcoming.]

Sarduy, Severo. “El barroco y el neobarroco.” América Latina en su literatura. Ed. César Fernández Moreno.  Mexico City: Siglo XXI, 1977. 167-84.  [“The Baroque and the Neobaroque.” Trans. Michael Schuessler. In Baroque New Worlds: Representation, Transculturation, Counterconquest.  Ed. Lois Parkinson Zamora and Monika Kaup. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, forthcoming.]

 


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    Author

    Gonzalo Celorio

    Traducido por/Translated by Franklin Strong, University of Texas at Austin
    Program in Comparative Literature



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